Oregon makes bid for national title
TEMPE, Ariz., Jan. 2 (UPI) -- The Bowl Championship Series, designed to produce an undisputed national titleholder in college football, could be on the verge of failure.
The Oregon Ducks, ranked second in both the media and coaches poll at the end of the regular season, drubbed the Colorado Buffaloes Tuesday in the Fiesta Bowl, 38-16.
Oregon's victory would allow the Ducks to claim a share of the national championship should top-ranked and unbeaten Miami lose Thursday night in the Rose Bowl against No. 4 Nebraska.
Despite its No. 2 ranking in the polls, Oregon was only fourth in the BCS rankings -- which determine the two teams that play for the national title. Nebraska, although it was blasted by Colorado in its final regular-season game, came in second in the BCS, followed by Colorado and Oregon.
The Ducks' win was the most significant Tuesday during the annual New Year's Day bowl explosion.
Oklahoma, last year's national champ, put on an awesome defensive display in defeating Arkansas, 10-3; South Carolina blew a 28-point lead and then came up with a last-second field goal from Daniel Weaver to beat Ohio State, 31-28; Tennessee coasted past Michigan, 45-17; Florida State ended an otherwise disappointing season with a 30-17 decision over Virginia Tech; and LSU had a surprisingly easy time in disposing of Illinois, 47-34.
Joey Harrington threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns in his final college game to carry the Ducks to their victory.
Oregon's only loss this season was a 49-42 defeat to Stanford on Oct. 20, in which the Ducks gave up two blocked punts and squandered a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead. Coach Mike Bellotti said he still believes the Ducks should have been playing in the Rose Bowl.
"It was difficult to tell my team why we're not," he said. "I could not come up with a lot of good reasons. I probably can't now even more so. I think we have done everything we should."
Tuesday's contest was expected to a shootout, but Oregon (11-1) buried the Buffaloes (10-3) with a deadly 1-2 punch -- the passing of Harrington and a surprisingly staunch defense.
Harrington, a likely top-five pick in the NFL draft, threw for three of his touchdowns in the first half. He completed 28 of 43 passes as he joined Arizona State's Danny White as the only Pac-10 quarterbacks to win three postseason games. He set a school bowl record with the four touchdowns.
The Orange Bowl will be played tonight in Miami between Florida and Maryland. It was announced Tuesday that Florida quarterback Rex Grossman, a Heisman Trophy finalist, will not start due to a curfew violation. Florida Coach Steve Spurrier will start fellow sophomore Brock Berlin, who is considering transferring to Florida's rival, Miami.
Willingham takes Notre Dame job
SOUTH BEND, Ind., Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Notre Dame introduced Tyrone Willingham as its new football coach Tuesday, bringing an end to an embarrassing chapter in the history of one of the most tradition-bound teams in American sport.
"This is one of the great universities in the country but as a football coach, it is one of the great opportunities," said Willingham, who left Stanford to take the job and who became the first black coach in any sport at the school.
"So to say that this is a dream come true is true."
Notre Dame released former coach Bob Davie at the end of the 2001 season, one that saw the Fighting Irish go 5-6. The school then hired George O'Leary away from Georgia Tech, but he resigned less than a week later when it was learned that he had falsified various aspects of his resume.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Kevin White said he spoke to several people concerning Willingham, including Southeastern Conference Commissioner Ray Kramer, Chicago Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo, Cleveland Browns General Manager Carmen Policy and Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick.
"Everyone regards Tyrone as one of the top coaches in the game today at the college and professional level and they regard the job he's done at Stanford as simply amazing," White said.
Willingham compiled a 44-36-1 record in seven seasons at Stanford. The Cardinal won the Pac-10 Conference championship in 1999 and tied for second this year.
Devils win third game in four tries
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Sergei Brylin and Patrik Elias ended scoring droughts and Martin Brodeur stopped 27 shots Tuesday night to lead the New Jersey Devils to their third win in four games, 2-1 over the St. Louis Blues.
New Jersey improved to 11-7-4-2 against teams at or above .500. The two-time defending Eastern Conference champions are just 5-7-1-0 against teams with losing records.
For the second straight game, the Devils controlled play for two periods, building a 2-0 lead on Brylin's first goal in 11 games and Elias' first in eight games.
As it did on Sunday in Edmonton, New Jersey made things interesting in the third period. But Brodeur came up with 15 saves over the final 20 minutes to preserve the win.
Doug Weight scored the lone goal for St. Louis, which fell to 2-7-3-2 in its last 14 road games.
Other NHL results: Colorado 4, Nashville 4; Washington 3; New York Islanders 2.
Clippers end three-game skid
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Jeff McInnis scored 23 points Tuesday night to lead seven players in double figures as the Los Angeles Clippers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 112-97 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, who have dropped five in a row.
McInnis made 10 of 15 shots and had nine assists. The Clippers shot 58 percent despite playing without forward Lamar Odom (sprained right wrist) and center Michael Olowokandi (food poisoning).
Quentin Richardson, who entered the game leading the NBA in points off the bench with 14 per contest, pumped in 19 and fellow reserve Darius Miles added 17. The Clippers' bench players outscored the Blazers' backups, 48-27.
Elton Brand had 16 points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Clippers, who took the lead for good at 17-14 on McInnis' three-point play with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
Los Angeles led by as many as 18 points in the second half and Portland came no closer than 88-81 after Ruben Patterson scored on a layup to begin the fourth quarter.
It was the only NBA game on the schedule New Year's Day.
Utah loses leading scorer
SALT LAKE CITY, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Utah senior center Chris Burgess will be out for at least one month and perhaps the entire season with torn plantar fascia in his right foot suffered in Saturday's victory over Texas.
Burgess was the team's leading scorer and rebounder entering the Texas game but went down five minutes into the contest. A 6-10 transfer from Duke, Burgess came in averaging 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds.
After the injury, it originally was thought Burgess would miss just a week or two. Burgess was re-examined on Monday and underwent diagnostic tests that helped determine the extent of the tear and the amount of time he may miss.
Burgess, a McDonald's All-American who struggled to live up to his billing, came to Utah after two unspectacular years for Duke, including an appearance in the 1999 national title game.
He started 21 games last season in his first campaign with the Utes and averaged 7.8 points and 5.9 boards.
Belgium survives scare at Hopman Cup
PERTH, Australia, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Fourth-seeded Belgium overcame a surprising loss in women's singles today to rally past Italy, 2-1, in a Group A round-robin battle at the Hopman Cup.
Belgium looked to be in trouble in the mixed team event after its No. 1 women's player, French Open finalist Kim Clijsters, dropped a 6-4, 6-4 decision to 31st-ranked Francesca Schiavone in the first match of the day.
But Xavier Malisse defeated Davide Sanguinetti, 6-4, 7-5, before pairing with Clijsters to top the Italian duo, 6-3, 6-4, in the mixed doubles.
The Federation Cup champions, Belgium was expected to cruise by Italy, which needed to beat Greece in a play-in just to enter the tournament.
In Group B action, third-seeded Spain posted its second three-match sweep of the week in its tie against Switzerland.